Categorized | Brazilian, Business, Featured, News

Hey, Brazilian spender!


The Brazilian shopping vacationer is taking New York by storm, spending more on average than any international group — and the city’s retailers are starting to take note.

Brazilian shoppers

Shoppers bring empty suitcases to Woodbury Common. CREDIT: LIZ FIELDS

Luciene Francciole is taking up a whole table meant for four people in the Food Court of Woodbury Common Premium Shopping Outlet, a mini retail village located an hour north of New York City in Central Valley. She needs the space for her spoils from the mall’s high-end stores: bag after bag from Bottega Veneta, Gucci and other emporiums balance like a Jenga tower over the hard plastic table.

“This dress islike, $500 back home, but here, it’s just $100,” says Francciole proudly, as she pulls a snowy white frock from an Armani bag. On the chairs and floor are more boxes of Nike shoes, Burberry coats and Dior handbags.

“And I’ve only just begun,” she smiles.

Francciole is close to 5,000 miles and a $900 plane ticket away from her home in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She is part of a growing trend of Brazilian tourists who are arriving in New York not to see a Broadway play or the Statue of Liberty, but to shop. According to NYC & Company, the city’s official marketing and tourism body, Brazilians now spend more in the city than any other tourist group ($1.62 billion last year), and the 718,000 Brazilians who flew here last year were the second-largest group of international visitors, after the United Kingdom.

Retailers around New York are beginning to notice and cater to the rising trend of shopping vacationers. At Woodbury Common, loudspeaker announcements can be heard booming in Portuguese, as well as Chinese, Japanese and Spanish – a nod to the four biggest clients that arrive by the bus loads. The large number of Brazilian bussers has prompted companies like Coach USA to print timetables in Portuguese, while some retailers at the mall even carry items specifically tailored to Brazilian customers. At Dolce and Gabbana, for example, you’ll find a rack of green and yellow t-shirts bearing the slogan: “It’s good to be Brazilian.”

And it’s certainly not a bad time to be Brazilian – that is, if you’re part of the estimated 40 million Brazilians who have joined the ranks of a newly cashed-up middle class after nearly a decade of solid economic growth. Since 2003, Brazil has made great leaps in becoming a “middle income” country, owing to new oil discoveries and soaring global prices for some of Brazil’s top commodities like iron ore, soy and sugar.

But with Brazilian federal taxes as high as 60 percent on imported goods with price tags of $3,000 or less, many Brazilians are being driven to U.S. shores to shop, where the same foreign-made items — everything from Apple electronics to baby strollers — can be bought at a much lower price.

At Woodbury Common, one of the world’s largest outlet centers at 800,000 square feet, many retailers say Brazilians now make up 50 percent or more of their clientele.

“Brazilians are my number one clients here,” says Liza Rodriguez, manager at M-Missoni and Valentino.

“They come with empty luggage and fill them up – that’s their strategy,” says Jerry Orozco at the Chloe outlet store. “Some of them take a bus trip straight to the Commons from the airport — their bags still have the airport tags on them.”

Coach USA

Brazilians arrive by the busload to the Commons every day to shop. CREDIT: LIZ FIELDS

The response from retailers to the influx of Brazilian shoppers is palpable. Luxury watchmaker Breitling, and fashion retailer Hugo Boss, have both hired Brazilian salespeople to speak to their Brazilian clients in their native language. In other stores, salespeople make an effort to learn basic words like “obrigado” (thank you) and “bonita,” which can mean either beautiful or sexy.

“They’re very confident about their appearance, regardless of their body type, which is just part of their culture,” says Rodriguez. “This kind of stuff is perfect,” she says, holding up a multi-colored strapless mini-dress. “It’s fitted, it’s bright, it travels well, and honestly, it’s almost unattainable to purchase a Missoni over there because the mark-up is so high.”

In the Bose outlet store, Ana Palfenier is browsing the shelves while wheeling around a large black suitcase filled with Christmas gifts for her husband and family members back in Sao Paulo. She is looking for a set of indoor speakers, which she says, “cost $300 for two here, but probably twice the amount back home.”

“Everything is very expensive back home, everything, and I can’t understand it,” says Palfenier. “Tax is so high in Brazil and that’s why everybody’s coming here. I’ve never seen New York like this before — so many Brazilians, it’s like you’re in Brazil. It’s amazing.”

Differences between the prices of electronics in Brazil and the U.S. are especially noticeable. While the price of a MacDonald’s Big Mac used to be the informal economic indicator of purchasing parity between countries, now the standard indices are perhaps better reflected in the price comparison of Apple products.

A 16GB iPhone 4S in Brazil costs approximately $2,000 real (US$987), compared to the $549 price tag in the states. And when it comes to the iPhone 5, there’s no comparison — it’s not available in Brazil yet, just another reason many Brazilians are hitting the Big Apple to buy their Apples.

Predictions of a slowdown in shopping abroad sound out of place when you’re watching Brazilians combing the shelves at the Apple store and high-end boutiques at Woodbury. But economic indicators show Brazil’s economy is slowing down from its scorching growth rate, even after it was announced as the world’s sixth biggest economy last year. The Brazilian economy is expected to grow only 2-3 percent this year, primarily as a result of China’s weakening demand for Brazilian commodities like soy, copper and oil.

For now, though, Brazilians consumers are dominating sales to tourists in New York City, and retailers at Woodbury say Brazilians can be relied upon to live up to their shopping reputation.

“Brazilians are the big money spenders,” says Jerry Orozco, who, in addition to selling at Chloe, also used to work at the G-Star and Theory outlets. “They come here and they just buy, buy, buy. I usually never strike out with them.”


Leave a Reply